I invite you to remember that glaciers in our country do not yet have a particular law to protect them, the last of the six attempts to create a protection standard, has been in the formation stage in our National Congress since July 4 2018, by the way, without urgency by the executive power. However, not all is bad news, these monumental, beautiful and vital ice masses, currently have a certain degree of legal protection against possible threats that may fall on them, in this context, and then I go on to give a brief overview of the legal norms in force in our country, which offer a certain degree of protection to Chile’s glaciers:

1st) Political Constitution of the Republic:

The Magna Carta in its article 19 N° 8 indicates as a right of every inhabitant of the nation: “The right to live in an environment free of contamination. It is the duty of the State to ensure that this right is not affected and protect the preservation of nature“.

In short terms, people, inhabitants, we have the right to operate in an environment without contamination and it is the duty of the State to protect this right and, in turn, within its functions is the care of nature, including with this the ecosystems of glaciers.

2nd) Law No. 19,300, on General Environmental Bases and Regulation of the Environmental Impact Assessment System:

Law No. 19,300 grants a preventive system of environmental protection, that is, before a project or activity takes place within a certain territory, it requires the owner of the project to inform the relevant environmental authority (Environmental Assessment Service) , the adverse environmental effects that may be caused by carrying out the project and the mitigation measures that will be taken in this regard.

The Regulation of the Environmental Impact Assessment System:

It complements the previous Law (No. 19,300) stating that the projects or activities liable to cause environmental impact must undergo the procedure outlined above, in the case of significant alteration of glaciers, which are incorporated into the Public Inventory by the General Directorate of Waters (DGA by its initials in spanish).

3rd) Law No. 20,283, On Recovery of Native Forest and Forest Development:

This regulation in its Title III called Of the Environmental Protection Norms, prohibits in its article 17 “the cutting, destruction, elimination or damage of native trees and shrubs in a distance of 500 meters from the glaciers, measured in horizontal projection in the plane“. Understanding the norm to glaciers with their environment (in this case native forest), as part of a large and unique ecosystem, which deserves protection as an indivisible whole.

4th) Law 18.362, which creates a National System of State Protected Wild Areas (SNASPE by its initials in spanish):

Norm in which the Wilderness Area is defined as: The natural, terrestrial or aquatic environments belonging to the State and which it protects and manages for the achievement of the objectives indicated in each of the following management categories: Reserves of Virgin Regions; National Parks, Natural Monuments and National Reserves.

5th) Law N ° 17,288, On National Monuments:

Law that indicates that Nature Sanctuaries remain under the protection of the State. In article 31 of the law, it indicates the concept of Nature Sanctuaries, regulates custody by the Ministry of the Environment, prior authorizations to carry out activities such as fishing, hunting, rural exploitation or any other activity that could alter its natural state. In addition to the fines for violations. As an example here we have the La Paloma glacier located in the Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary.

As we can see, various standards offer a variety of levels of protection to our glacial ecosystems, but they are tangential, precarious and insufficient in their effectiveness to obtain adequate protection, in addition, on many occasions the actions granted to citizens are cumbersome and difficult to apply by the common people in an effective and timely manner. It is for the aforementioned, that together with knowing our ecosystems, we must be vigilant as members of our society, to the advancement of our norms in the legislative bodies and the legislative behavior of our representatives.


Rene Hernández Tapia, lawyer, Chilean Glaciers Foundation.
Source: Legal Order
Cover photo: West Glacier of Cerro Nevado El Plomo, Olivares River Valley, by Franco Buglio